AG, Secretary of State Looking at Republican Vote Buying Allegations
By Dennis Domrzalski
The New Mexico Secretary of State and the Attorney General’s offices are looking into allegations of vote buying at the state Republican Party’s Feb. 17 delegate nominating conventions in Bernalillo County.
Former New Mexico Gov. Dave Cargo and state Sen. Joe Carraro, R-Albuquerque, said they have been talking to investigators from both offices. Carraro, who has also alleged that Republic Party insiders threatened to wage a smear campaign against him if he sought the party’s nomination for the First Congressional District seat, talked with Secretary of State officials on Tuesday to tell them what he knew about the alleged vote-buying efforts.
Cargo, who served as governor from 1967 to 1971, said he talked for about an hour on Tuesday with an AG’s Office investigator. The AG’s office is the lawyer for the Secretary of State.
AG’s Office spokesman Phil Sisneros confirmed that the office is taking a preliminary look at the allegations.
The vote buying complaints stem from the Bernalillo County Republican Party ward conventions on Feb. 17. The conventions were held so party members could elect delegates to the state party’s March 15 statewide convention. Those delegates will determine which candidates will be on the ballot for the GOP’s June primary election.
There are two hot GOP races. In the First Congressional District, Carraro trying to challenge party insider favorite Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White. The two are hoping to run for the seat that is being vacated by Congresswoman Heather Wilson, R-NM.
Wilson is locked in a battle for the opportunity to run for the U.S. Senate seat that is being vacated by U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici, a Republican who has been in office for nearly 36 years. Domenici announced last year that he is leaving the senate because of degenerative brain disease.
Carraro said that party insiders and White’s campaign are waging a battle to keep him off the June ballot.
Cargo said he heard convention attendees say that they had been paid $35-an-hour by their campaigns to show up and vote for certain delegates.
Cargo also said that several attendees told him that the White and Wilson campaigns had paid their $30 registration fees.
The former governor says that under New Mexico law it’s a fourth-degree felony to bribe someone to vote, and to accept a bribe to vote. He says that paying people to show up at the convention amounted to a bribe under the law.
A source in White’s campaign denied the vote buying allegations. The source said the campaign paid no one to attend the conventions.
Wilson campaign spokeswoman Whitney Cheshire refused to comment on the allegations. She refused to answer our questions as to whether the campaign paid people to show up at the conventions.